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Monday, 27 July 2015 15:00

ALP and Shorten fall short on Data Retention “backflip” Featured

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Too little, too late and too bad – that about sums up the newfound misgivings of the ALP and its venerable leader Bill Shorten about the Data Retention legislation the so-called Opposition gave a free ride through Parliament four months ago.

Now that this intrusive, costly, unpopular and unnecessary piece of work is law, the ALP and its boss have suddenly found their voices.

Yes, at its national conference in the past few days, the ALP has voiced concerns about aspects of the legislation it passed through both Houses of Parliament with nary a whimper of protest.

For instance, the ALP now has concerns that a growing number of federal, state and local government agencies, which have nothing to do with fighting crime, have unfettered access to the metadata of ordinary citizens.

As has been reported in coverage of the ALP national conference, an ALP left faction led by NSW MP Jo Haylen has successfully pushed for a “review” of Labor’s policy on data retention.

Of course, this change of heart has been welcomed by some of the consumer, industry and privacy advocates.

Internet Australia, a not for profit which represents Internet users, “applauds the decision of Labor's National Conference to hold a review of the Data Retention Act.”

Digital freedom advocate Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) also welcomed the ALP backflip.

EFA Chair David Cake said today, "It's reassuring to see that within the wider ALP there remains an understanding of the importance of meaningful protections for individual privacy, and for the protection of whistle-blowers and other journalists' sources. It's unfortunate however that the party leadership chose to allow this badly flawed legislation to pass the parliament despite these concerns.  EFA looks forward to the opportunity to participate in a review of this legislation, should the ALP form government after the next election."

I wouldn’t count on it David – even if the ALP does manage to win office.

What everyone seems to have forgotten is that on both sides of the House there were many members privately expressing their misgivings at this outrageous legislation. They were told to shut up by their bosses. Not one major party MP publicly showed dissent when it came time to vote.

And upon examination of what has been said about the Data Retention legislation at the ALP national conference, the ALP is merely seeking “to find a better balance between privacy concerns and of course concerns around security.”

That doesn’t sound anything like, say, “let’s repeal this oppressive piece of junk when we get to power.” It sounds more like, “let’s promise to slightly tweak the legislation we voted for so that we can appear to be the good guys and a real Opposition once again.”

Throughout this whole sordid affair, the lone constant voice representing the ordinary citizens of Australia has been Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. And of course Senator Ludlam is as cynical as ever about the latest ALP ploy, as his Facebook post demonstrates: “too late to try and reinvent #‎DataRetention history, labor - you already voted for it.”

Indeed. It appears that the Australian political system, like its counterparts in much of the West, has devolved to the point where the people are forced to choose between two sets of buffoons who don’t give a damn what their constituents think. A system like that is not only broken; it’s dangerous.


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Stan Beer

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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